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News 04 Nov 15

Mass Protest As Romania Tightens Club Rules After Deadly Fire

Tens of thousands of people have protested against the political leadership, while the government has toughened up the rules on clubs following the deadly blaze in a Bucharest nightclub.

Marian Chiriac
BIRN
Bucharest
Romanians pay homage to the victims of the nightclub fire | Photo:Facebook.

Over 20,000 people late on Tuesday marched towards government headquarters in Bucharest, demanding cabinet resignations following the death of 32 young people after a blaze started by fireworks at a rock concert last week.

Demonstrators have demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea and the mayor of the district where the nightclub was located.

On its part, Romania’s government early on Tuesday approved new regulations for local clubs, in a move aimed at improving security.

"The Emergency Situations Inspectorate, ISU, will be able to close down all clubs, bars, pubs and public places that do not comply with safety rules. Until now, only local authorities had the power to shut down clubs,” Prime Minister Victor Ponta announced after the government meeting on Tuesday.

The rule has been eliminated that allowed clubs with a capacity to hold less than 100 people to function without being authorized by ISU, based on affidavits from their owners.

This was the case with the Colectiv club in Bucharest, which had a declared capacity of 80 people seated, but actually took in hundreds of people every night.

Twenty-six people were killed in the club on Friday following a fire caused by pyrotechnics set off during a heavy metal concert. Six others died in hospital in the following days.

Of the nearly 200 injured, 146 people were hospitalised for burns, smoke inhalation and other injuries. Some 80 of them are still in a critical condition.

Authorities say the number of victims is expected to grow.

The three owners of Colectiv were arrested on Tuesday, accused of manslaughter.

The club has been accused of not having the authority to hold concerts or to stage pyrotechnic displays. The venue was also overcrowded on the night.

Around 400 people were inside the Colective in a space suitable for only a quarter of that number. A pillar covered with foam caught fire and the blaze quickly spread to the ceiling.

As hundreds of partygoers rushed to the only working exit door at the venue, pieces of the burning ceiling fell onto the crowd.

A second exit door was later opened, but many people had by then already suffered burns.

Around ten nightclubs around the country have already announced that they are closing, or will be upgraded, as they do not meet the minimum safety requirements.

"We consider we have been ignorant and irresponsible. We were lucky. We don't want to put anyone's life in danger," one club owner said in a statement.

Police have started an investigation into the circumstances of the fire at Colectiv.

The tragedy has generated widespread public sympathy.

President Klaus Iohannis on Monday decorated two victims of the nightclub fire with one of Romania's top honours.

Photographer Claudiu Petre and drummer Adrian Rugina were awarded with the National Order for Merit for "the courage, altruism and dedication which they showed ... trying to save lives, paying the supreme sacrifice."

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